The philosopher Giordano Bruno believed that love was the link of links -vinculum quippe vinculorum amore est- that held the whole universe together and could be used to attract anything. Like some Platonic philosophers, he considered Eros to be the “daemon magnus” the supreme spirit that magnetized the cosmos – and the first among divinities In his book On Links in General, Bruno writes: “In all things there is a divine force that is, love, the father in himself, the source, the divine ocean of all ties. “It is through this bond, Bruno adds, that inferior things rise towards higher ones.
Marsilicio Ficino had already equated magic with love: “the task of magic is to compare things”, that is, put together, unite, link. Ficino had also suggested that in love, the lover is possessed by the ghost or spirit of his beloved – a kind of psychically charged luminosity that invades the imagination. Bruno is the continuator of this tradition. The definition of Bruno’s magic, in the words of the Romanian historian Ioan P. Couliano, is “the phantasmatic process that makes use of the continuity of the individual pneuma and the universal pneuma”. In the medicine of ancient Greece and in the philosophy of Aristotle, the pneuma is the spirit or breath that becomes information that makes the world intelligible through fantasy or imagination. In other words, the pneuma is transformed into phantasms (phantasmatos) or images that allow the soul to perceive and understand the world; it is the link between the soul and the body. Both love and magic occur in this universal substance that is the pneuma. The magician and the lover, both, weave a network of pneumatic bonds (which are experienced as ghosts or images in the psyche) using the sympathy and resonance between those links and the characteristics of the person or object they want to affect (which must study). Both cast their net, lay down their baits and seduce to gain control of the pneumatic mechanism of their desired object.
In a certain way the love that is formed in the mind or in the soul and invades them, exerting a power over them, is a conjured ghost, a spirit, a third (the fantasy) that unites or even – in the case of the highest love that is the divine – can devour the lover to transform his own subjectivity -annualizing it- in the beloved, in the object of his desire. This is Bruno’s fabulous explanation of the myth of Actaeon. The hunter Actaeon finds himself one day with the goddess Diana (Artemis) bathing naked in a fountain in the forest. Actaeon remains enthralled contemplating the virgin goddess naked in the water with her nymphs, something that nobody had been able to enjoy and that consisted of a kind of violation of the order, at least in the exoteric interpretation. No human can see the divinity without dying (at least symbolically). Diana then turns it into a deer and makes her own bloodhounds hunt it and devour it. Bruno has a more subtle and esoteric reading and sees in this the transformation of the lover into his beloved, the hunter into what he hunts, something that requires the destruction of his individuality. Diana is nature, the material universe that reflects universal intelligence; is a lunar goddess that reflects the intellectual light of the Sun (of Apollo). The philosopher, who hunts the highest knowledge, becomes his object of lacking, in wisdom, and manages to merge with nature itself, in such a way that “he contemplates it as a single thing”.
In On, the links in general Bruno explains so that the magician or manipulator can exercise his power in the world – and then, also, in addition, the lover on his beloved – must retain the semen, coitus reservatus. As Ioan P. Couiliano has noted, there is in the magical understanding of Bruno’s love – and in his theory of semen retention – similarities with Hindu Tantra and Taoism. (Interestingly, the word “tantra” means network, continuity, fabric and we could also say link). Magic, for Bruno, is based on the manipulation of pneuma, a term that, it seems to me, its best translation is prana, the vital breath or energy, which is central to all yoga and tantra. Both Tantrism and Taoism seek to cultivate and redirect prana or qi to increase life – in time and quality – and even achieve immortality or divinization.
In the text mentioned -which Couliano compares with Machiavelli’s Prince, as a tool for manipulation, in this case not political but psychological and emotional- Bruno suggests that the magician or manipulator must cultivate this eros -which is his raw material binding – and not squander it, because in doing so it loses strength or magnetism. “The ejaculation of the semen releases the bonds, while their retention narrows them, the one who seeks to chain must develop the same emotions as the one who must be chained,” Bruno writes. When ejaculating, the bonds are weakened, in some way, because the fire of the erotic attraction that the magician-lover cultivates loses strength when emanating the semen, which is ultimately pneuma (according to Aristotle, the same substance as the stars ). (Semen is the visible form of the spirit). “He who wishes to link [or attract] must develop the same emotions as the one he wants to link”, says Bruno. Explains Couliano that the manipulator must be “continent and at the same time ardently desire his subject”. Here lies the fine point of Bruno’s magic, which must perform two opposite actions. On the one hand, he must ardently desire, conjure, so to speak, binding erotic energy, and carefully he must control himself so as not to overflow. Not only not to emit the semen, but not to be seduced by its object. Something extremely difficult, since he himself must produce fantastic passionate mechanisms, the same voluptuousness of love and desire, but do so in a detached manner, so that he is not subject to passion.
Evidently, Bruno writes from the perspective of the magician/manipulator, not from that of a person who seeks only to seduce his beloved or improve his physical health. It must be mentioned, however, that Bruno’s aims are nobler than it might seem, since the magician/manipulator must, first of all, be free from selfishness or self-love – it is only when he is free from this that he can operate and manipulate the cosmic forces.
In any case, it is evident that Bruno was aware of this notion, more or less widespread in magic and in the occult, that semen has spiritual or energetic properties that should not be wasted. Something that was expressed by the famous physician Jan Baptista van Helmont (student of Paracelsus) in the early seventeenth century: “If the semen is not emitted, it becomes a spiritual force, which preserves its ability to produce sperm and invigorate the breath and the word.”